appeals court ruled on Thursday that the phrases “under God”
in the Pledge of Allegiance and “In God We Trust”
on U.S. currency do not violate the separation of church and state.
In their 2-1 decision, the ninth
U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco
rejected the argument by atheist Michael Newdow that the
references to God disrespect his religious beliefs. The court said
federal law does not require students to recite the pledge or the phrase “under
“Not every mention of God
or religion by our government or at the government’s direction is a violation
of the Establishment Clause,” wrote Judge Carlos T. Bea for the majority,
citing tax exemptions for religious groups and Nativity and Ten Commandments
displays on government property that have been upheld by the Supreme Court.
Pledge is constitutional,” Bea wrote.
“The Pledge of Allegiance serves to unite
our vast nation through the proud recitation of some of the ideals upon which
our Republic was founded and for which we continue to strive: one Nation under
God-the Founding Fathers’ belief that the people of this nation are endowed by
The ninth Circuit ruled in
Newdow’s favor in 2002 after he sued his daughter’s school district for having
students recite the pledge. The case reached the U.S. Supreme Court, but the
court ruled in 2004 that Newdow lacked the legal standing to file the suit
because he didn’t have primary custody of his daughter.
Newdow, who is a doctor with a
law degree, filed an identical legal challenge on behalf of other parents who
objected to students reciting the pledge at school. In 2005, a federal judge in Sacramento ruled that the pledge was
In a separate decision Thursday,
the ninth Circuit ruled that the inscription of
“In God We Trust” on coins and currency also did not violate the
First Amendment, saying the phrase is patriotic and not religious.
Other federal appeals courts
have upheld schools’ right to lead students in reciting the pledge. Both Newdow
and supporters of preserving the phrase “under God” have said the
unity among the circuit courts on the references to God makes it unlikely that
the Supreme Court will again review the decision, the Los Angeles Times